Israel: A History

Brandeis University Press  2012


Written by one of Israel's most notable scholars, this volume provides a breathtaking history of Israel from the origins of the Zionist movement in the late nineteenth century to the present day.

Organized chronologically, the volume explores the emergence of Zionism in Europe against the backdrop of relations among Jews, Arabs, and Turks, and the earliest pioneer settlements in Palestine under Ottoman rule. Weaving together political, social, and cultural developments in Palestine under the British mandate, Shapira creates a tapestry through which to understand the challenges of Israeli nation building, including mass immigration, shifting cultural norms, the politics of war and world diplomacy, and the creation of democratic institutions and a civil society. References to contemporary diaries, memoirs, and literature bring a human dimension to this narrative history of Israel from its declaration of independence in 1948 through successive decades of waging war, negotiating peace, and building a modern state with a vibrant society and culture.

Based on archival sources and the most up-to-date scholarly research, this authoritative history is ideal for course adoption and a must-read for anyone with a passionate interest in Israel. Israel: A History will be the gold standard in the field for years to come.

Discussion Questions

  • Does Israel: A History focus more on the cultural, political or military aspects of Israel’s past?
  • Is the Zionist ideology described in the first chapter of Israel: A History applicable to Israel’s situation today? What do you suppose Theodor Herzl would do if he were Israel’s current prime minister?
  • Did the mass immigration that took place in the 1950’s strengthen or ultimately hurt Israel?
  • In light of what Professor Shapira writes about the changing attitudes of Diaspora Jews, does it seem like Jews outside Israel will care more or less about Israel’s welfare in the coming years?
  • Is Professor Shapira making any over-arching argument concerning Israel, or is Israel: A Historya purely objective survey? Stated otherwise, does Professor Shapira appear to take a specific position on Israel, and if so, what is it?
  • Which U.S. Presidents were most sympathetic to Israel? Which were the least? Which U.S. Presidents’ actions resulted in the most good for Israel? The least?
  • Looking at Chapter 13 of Israel: A History, could the Six-Day War have been avoided? What had each side gained and lost by the end of it? Consider the same questions about the Yom Kippur War (Chapter 15).
  • Is the growth of secularism something that should be resisted or allowed to happen in Israel today? According to Israel: A History, have secular influences done Israel more harm or good over the years?
  • Which Israeli Prime Ministers were most willing to compromise with Israel’s enemies? The least?
  • Does Israel: A History seem ultimately optimistic about Israel’s future? Did you feel hopeful or worried after finishing the book?

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